OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume full diplomatic relations and appoint new ambassadors, the two countries said on Wednesday, ending a 2018 dispute that hurt relations and trade.
The decision follows discussions between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok in November last year, according to statements from Canada and Saudi Arabia. .
The statement said that the decision stems from “the desire of both sides to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries on the basis of mutual respect and common interests.”
The dispute in 2018 was preceded by the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi later that year, which was condemned by Canada and all Western countries. It began when Canada’s embassy in Riyadh posted a tweet in Arabic urging the immediate release of detained women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
This prompted Riyadh to recall its ambassador, prevent the envoy from returning, and impose a ban on new trade.
“The punitive trade measures will be lifted,” said a Canadian government source with knowledge of the agreement who was not authorized to speak publicly. It was not clear what effect the dispute would have on trade.
Saudi Arabia was Canada’s largest export market in the region in 2021, according to official data, when it totaled C$2.2 billion ($1.65 billion). Imports amounted to $2.4 billion. Almost all of Canada’s imports were oil and petrochemicals. More than 80% of exports to Saudi Arabia were transportation equipment.
The source added, “Empty chairs at the end of the day do not advance our interests, nor do things like human rights advance.”
The normalization comes as the Saudi prince, known as Mohammed bin Salman, seeks to reassert Saudi Arabia as a regional power by using his place atop an energy giant in an oil-dependent world consumed by the war in Ukraine.
“Saudi Arabia is a pivotal country in its region. It is an important player,” said Roland Paris, a former Trudeau foreign policy adviser and professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa. “It makes sense to put the ambassadors back in order to keep the channels of communication open.”
Canada will appoint Jean-Philippe Linto as its new ambassador to Riyadh.
The source added that Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said, “We need to have conversations with people with whom we don’t always agree on everything in order to find global solutions to global problems.”
($1 = 1.3372 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Shearer) Editing by Kirsten Donovan
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